From Wish Receiver to Wish Granter



Few things excite teenage boys like a trip to GameStop with money in their pockets, so Hunter Hill felt powered up when a party bus dropped him off at the store with a $400 gift card in hand. The Bradenton teenager shopped through titles to play on a new Xbox One purchased earlier in the day by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, as well as PC titles to play on his new laptop computer. “It was really cool what they pulled together,” Hunter says, “especially in such a short period of time.”

The foundation made sure to grant Hunter’s wish for a well-stocked game collection before an extended stay at All Children’s Hospital in Bradenton, where he was due for a tune-up to treat ailments related to Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic disease that can force such hospital visits up to four times in a year. A serious gamer, Hunter, now 18, wanted an MSI Ghost Pro laptop that could play cutting-edge games but could also be taken easily into his hospital room.

Make-A-Wish officials are used to granting the desires of children with life-threatening ailments, but a special aspect in fulfilling Hunter’s wish was that his “wish granter,” the volunteer assigned to carry out the realization of dreams, was herself a former Make-A-Wish recipient. Nicole McDowell suffered from cardiac problems and needed two open-heart surgeries and a mechanical heart valve to be put in while she was a teenager. Make-A-Wish put her on a cruise for her 16th birthday, and she has remained a supporter of the organization herself ever since, speaking at galas and now working with the organization. The University of South Florida grad, now 26 years old, said she cherished the chance to bring happiness to the Hill family. “It was cool to be able to talk to him on a normal kiddish level,” she said.

Rebecca Blitz, regional director for Make-A-Wish, said it was great to see a former recipient of services come back to help the foundation and its beneficiaries, especially since McDowell, like Hunter, was a teenager at the time her wish was granted. “This is her way of giving back,” Blitz said.

And for the Hill family, it was a relief in ways beyond putting flashy additions in Hunter’s video-gaming arsenal. “When you experience a chronic illness, everything is extremely difficult and stressful and costly and scary,” said mother Christina Hill. “You forget over time that all you do is focus on his breathing and medications and the next doctor’s appointment. Needless to say, there are not a lot of extras and fun things that happen from it. To watch Hunter and his excitement to be given such an amazing gift, it was just humbling to know that there are people that care.”

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